|Different religions are
supposed, ideally, to get members into some kind of relationship with
God or Christ that will give them a greater awareness of God or Christ.
This kind of relationship with God or Christ is to "spiritualize" people
so they will have more awareness of the real spiritual values that come
about with an awareness of a fit mutual relationship with God.
In some of the old ways of religion, which are to some extent still
practiced, religions dwindled into:
Organizations about God. These
organizations had creeds about Him. These creeds were interesting but
only told ABOUT God. They did not always encourage or really even desire
a personally aware relationship with God. All this meant joining the
church was about as life changing as membership in the Elks Club or any
other charitable society.
The organizations about God did relatively little but argue about the
different creeds of God with the selfish intention of empire building
for their own particular denominations in mind. All this was was boring
and tame. Thus the churches tended to become rather boring and tame. In
being boring there was ecumenical Christian unity nearly everywhere.
Now John Calvin remarked that the true Christian church was wherever the
Word "the Biblical essence" was truly preached and the sacraments truly
administered regardless of the name of the group or denomination. On a
practical basis this meant that though the denominations all had
different names, all of them probably had at least one congregation
where the Word was preached through grace and the sacraments were
Now this meant the great argument among the churches thus became which
church was preaching the Word correctly and administering the sacraments
correctly. Which had the right techniques? People were burned alive as
heretics over these nonsensical arguments. The discussions were petty
and technique oriented to say the least.
The churches were now off the high transcendent level of God. In fact God seems to have often been forgotten by many people as
they argued about the techniques He used. The sublime had been rendered
trivial and ridiculous. God had been forgotten. The creeds about Him had
taken His place in discussion.
On one hand people were really hung up on agreement instead of God. And
the question is, of course, why is agreement about God necessary? The
mind of God is infinite, and the mind of man is finite, so there will
always be fragmentation and disagreement because the mind of
man is not big enough to hold the entirety of God's mind.
The ridiculous idea that was entertained in "Western" creed centered
religion seems to have been that there should be agreement in mind and
organization. But since man's mind is finite, and God's mind is
infinite, none could get ALL of God's mind, and there would bound to be
different minds. And where there are different minds, there must be
differently thinking organizations.
Why are different organizations so bad? I don't see that they are.
Agreement is not necessary for love to go on. Those in a family may
disagree. Those in a family should and could disagree. In fact that
family will be a sick, very sick one when some of the members do not have
some disagreement. That family will be, I submit for your thinking, an
unusual group of unoriginal, conventional, unthinking, and very insecure
neurotics. The very idea of a family like that is frightening.
The family of God like the family of man will disagree. Count on it.
Given the infinity of God, who can be seen to be symbolically a wide and
brilliant prism of light and life where no one color has a monopoly,
no one person or one group or one spiritual light is going to catch the
full light. The challenge is not to take in all of the light, but to be
true to the light you have seen or been given the grace to see.
But what is a way all Christian denominations, no matter how they may
agree or disagree, can get along and still respect the difference they
may have with various creeds? My thinking is not to be creed centered
and churchy but instead to put your emphasis and time on a truth nearly
all may agree on.
Erasmus, the great Renaissance theologian had a concept he called, "the
philosophy of Christ." That is, all should use the plain and simple
teachings of the Son of God, Jesus, as their path, guide, philosophy and
way of living. The idea is to steep yourself in the Gospels, become
familiar with the teachings and parables of Jesus, then in confusing
situations ask yourself simply, "What would Jesus do?"
Erasmus, a pre-Reformation thinker, had a great influence on Zwingli, a
great thinker in Protestantism. He studied the plainness, gentleness,
tough realism and compassion of Jesus. He saw that a poor man or a
simple person could follow the teachings of Jesus shown in the Gospels
as well or better than many intellectual or well schooled people might.
Too much education can often be confusion making. Or morally
The answer for Erasmus and Zwingli, Protestant and Catholic, was not to
do away with creeds and doctrines which sometimes helped people. But to
put creeds and differing denominational doctrines in their correct
place, which is secondary to a simply lived and living faith.
Be a philosopher of Christ, trying first to use the simple ways,
parables and truths of the Jesus of the Gospels. I find that it is not
the great thinkers and complicated intellectuals who may understand
faith best. Indeed, they seem to screw up faith worst. Perhaps only our
over schooled liberals could have turned Christianity into the tangled
web of materialism and moral deception it now is. Mores' the pity the
plainer faith of the people has been laid aside.
But, remember, instead, it is the simple people, the children, as Jesus
said who have the child like faith, who are truly of the Kingdom of
Heaven. The folk of simple faith, it seems to me, intuitively grasp best
what under the circumstances Jesus would do. Can you do likewise?